Today is the first day of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is designed to bring awareness to those books that are commonly banned and challenged and encourage people to read them. Every year, hundred’s of challenges are reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom in an effort to get one or more books banned from a library’s collection. Some of these are classics like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (number 14) and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (number 17) and others are modern favorites like Harry Potter (one of the top challenged books for the last two decades) and The Hunger Games.
People or groups attempt to ban books for a number of reasons. Usually they are: religious or political viewpoint, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuitable to age group, inappropriate content, and social reason such as racism, homosexuality, etc. Sometimes challengers cite more than one reason. Offensive language can mean anything from a few instances of sh!t and a damn, to full on f-bombs throughout the book. inappropriate content could mean an instance of rape or drug use, to violence, and even a mention of a woman’s cycle. It’s all in the eye of the challenger(s).
One of the top banned and challenged books for the last sixteen years is the Harry Potter Series. Yes, Harry and Company have come under fire so often that they are ranked number 48 out of a 100 for 1990-1999 before climbing to number 1 for 2000-2009. When doing research for a paper on banned books for my Foundations class, I found all kinds of reasons people don’t like Harry. The top one being Magic of course, but also drug use and lack of family values was cited. Now I know I’ve only admitted to seeing the movies, but Molly Weasly all but adopts Harry and Hermoine, who isn’t even an orphan, despite being barely able to afford the seven children she already has. She fears their deaths during the war just as she does the deaths of her biological children. She’s the perfect example of a loving mother. That doesn’t sound like a lack of family values to me.
His Dark Materials, which I discussed in my last post, is number 8 for the decade. To Kill a Mockingbird, a book typically read in high school English Classes ranks 21. Fahrenheit 451. a book about the banning of books even makes the list at number 69. When looking at the lists, it seems no book is safe.
The ALA ranks the top 100 books by decade, but ranks the top ten by year. In 2010 the growing popularity of The Hunger Games got it ranked number 5 and it jumped to number 3 in 2011. As for those sparkly vampires? They are ranked number 5 in 2009 and number 10 for 2010 citing sexually explicit content as one of the reasons.
So in honor of Banned Books week join me in picking up one of ALA’s Hundred Most Banned and Challenged Books. I’ll be reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which ranks number 10 for the last decade.